As a reporter and producer focused on the race and culture beat at ABC News, Kiara Alfonseca works to elevate voices from marginalized communities that have long went unheard. She also aspires to be like the mentors who’ve helped her succeed in her career through her efforts as the vice president for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists New York City chapter and as a mentor coach for America Needs You.
Alfonseca shares these efforts and more, including how her public-service-focused mentality frames her reporting and the impact she hopes her stories have on underserved communities.
What do you do today?
I am a race and culture reporter and producer for the ABC News and Good Morning America digital teams. I specifically look at the topics of education, policing, economic and social injustice through the lens of identity—be it race, ethnicity, LGBTQ identities, and more.
I view my job as a service role in a way. Media has long underserved and underreported on marginalized communities, so I want my reporting to ensure we’re covering these groups diligently, authentically, and passionately.
Whatever the news is, I try to think of it through the lens of identity: What groups are impacted the most and are there systemic issues that have caused this? Is there logistical information that some demographics might need to know that’s not being served by our reporting? Are there solutions to these inequalities that we can highlight that may be helpful to policymakers and readers alike?
Ultimately, I want my work to make the world a better place. If I can do that, I’ve done my job.
What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?
Probably my two career highlights have been the major projects I’ve been able to assist in leading, including:
For Pride, a team of us went back to Colorado Springs, which was the site of a mass shooting at an LGBTQ+ bar called Club Q.
Amid growing anti-LGBTQ sentiment across the country, we wanted to speak to former patrons of Club Q about what it’s been like to feel under attack both physically and politically. What does recovery look like when there’s so much work to do in uplifting and protecting the community?
I hope our stories answer that. In the link you can find our main story and video from the survivors telling their story of recovery.
If you scroll down you can find our stories about: the very emotional love stories (and stories of loss) out of Club Q drag performers using drag as a form of protest amid legislative attacks the story of one trans woman who narrowly missed the Pulse and Club Q shootings and more.
This ABC News photo project offered survivors of the Robb Elementary School shooting the opportunity to show how the community is recovering from the tragedy through their own eyes.
Students were given cameras and taught how to use them in a series of photojournalism workshops led by ABC News.
The children then put their skills to use: photographing memorials dedicated to the friends or relatives they lost in the shooting, intimate portraits of their families at home, or snapshots of protests around town.
We wanted audiences to see, hear and read about the children’s stories from their own perspectives and in their own words.
What is your greatest personal accomplishment to date?
It’s going to sound so tacky, but being vulnerable and kind. I feel like I am my most vulnerable and kind self right now. And my happiest self. What more can a gal ask for?
How do you tackle problems and overcome challenges?
Asking for help. It can make you feel so weak to ask for help but being able to know when you need a hand or a new perspective is such a strength to me. I’m surrounded by incredibly talented people, and it’s a great opportunity to learn and grow.
Other than that, I just remember to trust my intuition and trust in myself. Trust in where my creativity tells me to go and try new things.
What do you do today to impact your community?
I am a mentor coach for America Needs You, entering my second two-year commitment to mentoring first generation, low-income college students in New York City. I do this work because I know firsthand the power of mentorship and want to give back. I would not be where I am today without the guiding wisdom of people who have taken me under their wing, supported me throughout the turbulent years of my early adulthood, and taught me what I needed to succeed. Having someone who believes in you can make all the difference. As a young professional myself, I know the landscape of career and professional development as it is today—and I hope to use the knowledge to help these students achieve their goals in making the world a better place.
I am the vice president for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) NYC chapter, the largest chapter in the country. We host events and workshops for our members—to network, to learn, to support representation of Hispanic journalists in our industry. This includes hosting workshops, panels, events, and more. I do this work as a volunteer because NAHJ is such an incredible resource in cultivating and encouraging a community of diverse journalists. It has long been a resource for me, and I want to do what I can to support my local journalists as they are continually faced with absolutely unprecedented events in a news cycle that never lets us rest.
Every now and then, I try to pick up a shift with New York Cares to deliver food to those with food insecurity or help organize food pantries.
Describe yourself in five words.
Passionate, energetic, caring, funny, and creative.
What are your future goals?
I would like to live a very happy life with my partner, a puppy, a kid or two, traveling pretty regularly with a job that fulfills me and makes the world a better place. As for specific career benchmarks . . I don’t want to jinx it. Mal de ojo, and all that.
What is your favorite form of self-care?
My self-care is what I do for fun—these go hand-in-hand. As long as I make time for fun little excursions and new adventures, then I have the energy and fuel for the other areas in my life.
What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?
Long distance running and cycling has been really rewarding for me. I’m training for my second marathon, and these long runs/bikes have taught me so much about myself. It teaches you a lot about discipline, yes, but you have to be comfortable stuck in your own head for, like, four and a half hours. It’s challenging, but thankfully I think I’m great company.
I also get a lot of energy from going out on the town for shows, dancing, whatever it might be—I’m out with friends and my partner most nights, and it always charges my mental battery. Surround yourself with incredible people and they will energize you, not deplete you.
I’ve also taken up some other hobbies including bomba dance classes and improv comedy classes. Because both of these things are improv, it’s such a great way to get out of your head.
The more we continue to learn and see the world and are in our communities and take time to improve ourselves, the longer and fuller our lives will feel.
What does making NextGen Collective’s 30 Under 30 list mean to you?
It means so much. I am indebted to so many Latino/a/e/x people who came before me, particularly my parents who have been incredibly supportive through my entire life. There was nothing their children couldn’t do in their eyes. We were all capable of anything, and they wanted to help us get there.
I know the most important dream for my parents was to know that my family is happy and healthy, but still, I feel like my work has clearly made an impact and knowing that has meant that I’ve made them and myself proud.
I also didn’t realize how integral my culture was to my upbringing and who I am until I was away from the normalcy of having Latino dishes almost every night and being around my Spanish-speaking parents and listening to the salsa on long car rides.
So, I want to make sure I am always repping my culture even when I’m away from home—and reporting on my community is a part of that. So specifically to be honored by my community is an unbelievable honor.
What is your personal theme song?
It is between “La Vida es Un Carnaval” by Celia Cruz OR “just like magic” by Ariana Grande. Clearly, two very different vibes, but both are about being incredibly grateful for life and what it brings to us.
What is your Latino background?
I was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised upstate. My Puerto Rican mother was born and raised in New York, and my Dominican father was born in the Dominican Republic and came to the US when he was about ten years old.
Editor‘s note: This Q&A has been edited for clarity.